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Thursday, June 9, 2011
Glendale wastes chances to keep Coyotes

By Scott Burnside

After spitting up another $25 million to cover losses by the Phoenix Coyotes and keep them in town, the city of Glendale should be showing a little more urgency to get a deal done with a prospective owner.

Yet this place has more than earned its nickname "Gongdale" throughout the tortured saga of the local hockey team, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the machinery to find a new owner and finally stabilize the situation in the desert has ground to a virtual halt.

A source told ESPN.com that prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer has provided a new proposal to the city of Glendale for the purchase of the team. This proposal would give the city more options for financing the deal and is more attractive than the deal the city of Glendale previously agreed to, which is presumably still on the books.

The old deal has never moved forward thanks to threats from conservative public interest group The Goldwater Institute that it will sue over the deal, which includes the sale of municipal bonds to help cover the cost of the purchase of the team from the National Hockey League.

Multiple sources tell us there is a divide within city government with some members of the council wanting to move forward with this new proposal and with others, including city manager Ed Beasley, wanting to wait to see whether Hulsizer will kick in more of his own money to buy the team or another owner will come forward to buy the team and put less of a financial burden on the municipality.

Of course, the ongoing sentiment from sources close to the deal is that finding such a person who will take the team off the NHL's hands, spend more of his or her own money and keep the team in Glendale remains completely in the realm of fantasy.

Maybe such a person exists, but if he does, he has taken his sweet time making himself known.

The Coyotes' plight was brought into a little sharper focus this week when the Coyotes traded the rights to netminder Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bryzgalov was key to the Coyotes' run to the playoffs this spring and a year ago when he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy.

Perhaps Bryzgalov, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, wants too much money, so the trade of his rights would have been made regardless of the Coyotes' ownership situation. But the fact that the team's future in Arizona remains far from set can be seen as a contributing factor to Bryzgalov's leaving town.

Further, how will GM Don Maloney attract free agents to keep the team competitive with ownership still up in the air?

What kind of budget will he work with as the NHL continues to hold the purse strings, however reluctantly?

The city of Glendale's failure to move forward with an ownership deal continues to be a failure to establish a connection between the fan base and the team and take advantage of the work done by coach Dave Tippett and Maloney.

Hulsizer has collected more than $100 million in cash that is set aside for the purchase of the team. It's believed Hulsizer is growing impatient to either close the deal in Glendale, move on to another potential NHL investment or redistribute the money to his investors.

The fact that the city of Glendale has for a second straight year committed $25 million to cover losses connected to the team guarantees the team's stay in Glendale for only the coming season. Nothing more. And you can be sure the NHL will move swiftly to begin relocation of the team by the end of December if an ownership deal is not in place, regardless of whether it's with Hulsizer or someone else.

If Hulsizer walks away, and all signs point to that day coming sooner than later, the city of Glendale might have watched its last, best chance to keep the team in the desert go with him.